Everybody talks about quality. It’s job number one. It’s what drives the company. And so on. But when it comes to manufacturing, what does that really mean? In most cases with manufacturing and the shop floor, it can mean a lot of things — probably way too many things. It’s easy to get confused, and by trying to do too many different things on the quality front, you can become your own worst enemy.
On the other hand, the many different ways to approach quality on the shop floor can be a good thing. You have a lot of options, and, they’re all good ones. The key is to pick the options that make sense for you and your manufacturing environment. If you try too many, you’re sunk. But, if you pick a couple of the right options, you really can have a big impact on quality on your shop floor.
So, here are some options for you to consider, tools for you to use and ideas to get you thinking about what you need to do. This isn’t a list of everything you ought to do, heavens no. Trying to do all this would sink your company and your career. This is just a list for you to choose what makes the most sense and, most importantly, what would have the most immediate payback for your manufacturing operations.
Specification Management — Management of product specs, material specs, packaging specs, testing specs, quality specs and so on, so everyone has the right spec and the right version of the right spec.
Net Contents Control — Controlling the weight, volume, size, etc., of the finished product to minimize overpack or giveaway. This alone is often worth big bucks in most companies.
At-Line Testing — Moving the quality tests and audits as close to the line as possible to significantly improve turnaround time. That way, when quality problems occur they are caught and corrected very quickly. (This can even include options like SPC and SQC if you wanted to.)
Lab Testing — Bringing the power of a lab environment to your quality tests and audits to achieve a much faster turnaround time on testing and to perform the level of testing necessary to ensure product quality.
Regulatory Compliance — Improving the methods for gathering regulatory information so regulatory compliance and regulatory data collection are not so burdensome and costly for the manufacturing people.
Traceability — Improving lot tracking and tracing and making sure all the information you really need is in the batch records. This can easily form the basis for almost all other quality initiatives you may have. In my experience, it’s often worth its weight in gold when a problem comes up.
Hold and Release — Simply getting better at the hold-and-release process so it all happens quickly and easily, reducing the time that product is on hold and the effort it takes to get the quality test results to take the product off hold.
So, again, these are just some options. Think about them; there’s probably something on this list that makes sense for your situation. Pick the right one (that’s the one with the most immediate need and the most immediate payback) and get started. Good luck!